Since releasing their 2017 self-titled debut, Here Lies Man has focused almost entirely on perfecting their aesthetic form and craft. After having spent three LPs exploring their hybrid fusion of Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rock, the group seemingly covered as much ground as they could within that specific space. Ritual Divination however, seeks to explore the greater elements of drone, early heavy metal, and even some prog, bringing an end to the quest of Here Lies Man’s topography of their chosen field.
“In These Dreams” opens up the journey, with slinking and prickly bluesy guitars presenting a wall of fuzzy reverb for vocalist Chico Mann to scale with hard staccato vocal patterns. The track’s breakdown is decidedly retro, with a scouring synth and repeated arpeggiated pattern that absolutely slays. This form continues with “I told You (You Shall Die)” which introduces furthered sonic elements from Afrobeat. However, an unforecasted time signature change arrives with a startling and effective abruptness. Once more, a stark analogue production emboldens and elevates the track, ending with xylophone accents and a horn section nestled within an unexpected stretch that pays off.
Going forward, the band focuses more on its dynamic grooves, which are as one would expect, inescapably catchy. “Can’t KIll It” sounds absolutely filthy while remaining steadfastly simple in it’s construction. Fascinatingly enough, it also accents a flirtation with drone elements that run subversively through the album, creating an interesting push and pull between focused rhythms and elongated stretches of notes. This makes for the perfect vehicle to introduce more of a prog-rock presence, occasionally taking place on tracks like “Night Comes” with alternating rhythms and fluctuating time signature.
Here Lies Man wields the schema of fuzz rock with sometimes startling mechanical uniformity, embracing the sonic palette fully on tracks like “Come Inside” with its guitar scratches and chord changes sounding like a raucous blanket of fuzz. In stark contrast, the band explores a darker canopy of sound for two tracks toward the album’s end. “Collector Of Vanities” has more malice tonally than its contemporaries, feeling heavier and weirder with well-timed accents coinciding with a furious percussive presence and letting guitar feedback ride to cycle back into its main harmony. It’s a gnarly track, equally full of grooves and grime, upending some of the aesthetic narrowness experienced up until this point. Some sludgy, grindier elements haunt the languished breakdown of the following track, “Disappointed.”
Which makes it slightly jarring to see the band dive back into the thorough exploration of their particular vertical slice of Sabbath-inspired Afrobeat with the last two tracks. Although final track “Cutting Through the Tether” makes up for this with its refusal to delve into any sort of high-tiered sonic theatrics, it doubles down on its Afrobeat heritage and jazz percussive inlays to create a masterful fusion that closes the album with a quieted, difficult, and mesmerizing ending.
Ritual Divination is a soulful rumination that pays a sonic tithe to the genres that informs its core DNA without indulging in pure pastiche. Though repetitive elements that creep in through the album’s arc, it stands resolute from its layered production. It would be easy to criticize the album for a sense of sameness in parts, but that would be a mistake. Its cohesion is a manifestation of a focused aesthetic that’s explored fully to satisfying ends.
Label: Riding Easy